Better, Stronger, Together: TTI and the Texas Department of Transportation
Shortly after it was formed in 1917, the Texas Highway Department came to the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas looking for answers. Can we make this road last longer? Can we save taxpayer dollars and still do a better job? Can we save lives? The department was looking for a better way to build, maintain and improve the Texas transportation system.
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) was born of that vision in 1950. Since then, our joint mission with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) hasn’t changed much. As partners, we focus on creating innovative, implementable solutions to real-world problems to positively impact the state’s 80,000-plus-mile network of roadways.
Some historical examples of the major advancements TTI and TxDOT have created together include:
- extensive high-occupancy vehicle lane systems in Houston and Dallas;
- roadside safety devices such as breakaway signs, guard rails and crash cushions;
- the first traffic management systems in the country; and
- improved standards for highway sign visibility.
You’ll see a number of examples of how we’re still innovating together in this issue of the Texas Transportation Researcher.
TTI’s data-collection experts across three different programs are helping TxDOT forecast the impact of air pollution on our urban centers’ air quality. We’ve recommended new maintenance procedures for using very thin overlays to stretch taxpayer dollars without sacrificing pavement performance. We support TxDOT’s Aviation Division as it encourages economic development at the nearly 300 general aviation airports in the Lone Star State. And in the safety area, TTI has developed guidelines for improving work zone safety for motorists and workers alike, and we’ve aided TxDOT in capturing the life-saving value of widening the shoulders on rural roads.
TTI’s state-of-the-practice test beds help answer the department’s better-way questions. Read on to see how our crash-testing facility has enhanced driver safety via recommendations for improved roadside signs and pavement skid resistance. Meanwhile, over at the Hydraulics, Sedimentation and Erosion Control Laboratory, we’re expanding our facility to provide more simulated rainfall testing for TxDOT and other sponsors.
One of the centerpiece projects we’re currently teaming with TxDOT on is the expansion of I-35 from Hillsboro to Salado in the department’s Waco District. Due for completion in 2017, this 96-mile, $2.5 billion effort showcases the best of what TTI has to offer. Our researchers have developed a unique traveler-information system that pulls together distinct data sources to forecast travel times to commuters, freight haulers and emergency personnel during construction. Our mobility coordinators are serving as liaisons between TxDOT and citizen and business groups along the corridor, getting the word out about the whys and wherefores of the expansion effort. In short, we’re helping the medicine go down smoother while TxDOT focuses on what it does best: improving the Texas highway system.
By the way, you might have noticed in the second paragraph that TTI is now the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. All agencies of The Texas A&M University System, including TTI, have recently incorporated “A&M” into their names. With its focus on our Institute’s historic partnership with TxDOT, it’s somewhat fitting that this Researcher is the first issue to carry our new name.
When, in 1917, the Texas Highway Department came to the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas looking for answers, it found them in the minds of Aggie engineers. Today, TxDOT continues to ask questions, TTI continues to answer them, and Texans benefit from the conversation. You might even say our partnership has become a tradition here at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.